Maritime sector stakeholders have expressed concerns over the Federal Government’s policy on cargo palletization, noting that it will cost Nigerian importers about $60 million (N18.6 billion) annually.
The stakeholders were also unanimous in their resolution that the controversial policy will increase the diversion of Nigerian-bound cargoes to the ports of neighbouring countries where the policy is not implemented.
According to the communiqué issued at the end of their meeting, maritime stakeholders also raised issues on the importation of strange organisms into the country through wooden pallets and the management of the pallet waste after use.
Speaking at the meeting, National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu said the palletization policy holds no benefit for the country and “will also further breed corruption” at the port.
“The policy will be difficult for shippers, because we are an import dependent nation. Palletization will enhance corruption in the ports, as a good chunk of the internally generated revenue in the port goes into private pockets. Palletization should not be our priority, rather let us look at how we can improve services at the ports,” he said.
General Manager Shipping of SIFAX Group, Mr. Henry Ajoh who represented the Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, expressed fears over the implementation of the new policy stating that “it cannot work in Nigeria”.
According to Ajoh, what the ports need urgently is enhanced cargo examination system to facilitate ease of doing business. He said, “We need scanners. Government needs to deploy technology at the port for Customs examination and release processes. That is the way to go. Palletization takes us backward and cannot work in Nigeria.”
The Managing Director of CMA CGM – a leading container carrier operating in Nigeria, Mr. Todd Rives said that the policy will lead to the loss of over $60 million annually, warning that the policy must be thoroughly thought through by government.
In his remarks, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello said that palletization of cargo is international best practice. He said the introduction of the policy in Nigeria was to enhance physical examination of cargo by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Bello also noted that there are cargoes that cannot be palletized, noting that as a Council, it had to listen to stakeholders and take their concerns to the relevant government authorities. The Town Hall Meeting, which had the theme “Whither the Palletization Policy”, was attended by an array of maritime industry stakeholders which include the representatives of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and Nigeria Customs Service.
Others stakeholders at the meeting include: Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), SIfax Group, Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Maersk Line, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Ports Consultative Council, shipping companies and terminal operators, among others.